New Pelotonia Idea Grants Fund Blood, Brain, Breast, Ovarian and Thyroid Cancer Research

July 31, 2017
Genetic testing at The OSUCCC James

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Eight additional cancer research projects have received funding from Pelotonia, the annual cycling movement that has raised more than $130 million for cancer research efforts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

The 2017 Pelotonia Idea Grants Program projects range from evaluating targeted therapies for thyroid cancer and immunotherapy treatment approaches in breast cancer, acute myeloid leukemia and brain tumors to laboratory research aimed at understanding cancer stem cell differentiation in ovarian cancer.

In the past seven years, more than 100 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants, which provide funding support for two years. Awardees are selected through a peer-review process conducted by both internal and external scientists not competing for grants in the current funding year.

A total of $1.14 million will be awarded for this latest round of Pelotonia Idea Grants, with $11.6 million in funding awarded since the program’s inception. This represents the work of investigators across eight colleges plus Nationwide Children’s Hospital Medical Center as well as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“To make strides toward ending cancer, we must continue to invest in research. The Pelotonia community raises critically important funding to launch new and innovative ideas that will improve our understanding of this disease and help develop better detection and treatment options to help cancer patients,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. “We are extremely grateful for all of the dedicated Pelotonia riders, virtual riders, volunteers, and corporate partners helping to raise funds to make this life-changing research possible.”

Research projects are as follows:

Understanding Cancer Stem Cells in Ovarian Cancer
Only 45 percent of ovarian cancer patients reach the five-year survival mark, primarily due to high rates of advanced disease and disease recurrence. Researchers believe cancer stem cells are the root of many solid tumors, including ovarian. OSUCCC – James researchers recently discovered a protein (DDB2) that stops the growth of ovarian cancer stem cells. This study further investigates the mechanisms by which DDB2 stops cancer stem cell survival. Results could help scientists develop better strategies to stop ovarian cancers from spreading and returning.

  • Investigator: Qi-En Wang, MD, PhD, OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program

Evaluating New Targets for Glioblastoma Treatment
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common type of malignant brain tumor, with most patients living just 12 to 15 months from the initial diagnosis. New molecular targets are urgently needed to make a significant improvements in patient survival. Guo and team recently revealed that a protein called SCAP is essential for activation of SREBP-1, a gene/protein known to have involvement in GBM growth. This study will focus on advancing knowledge of how cellular metabolism is “reprogrammed” in GBM. This knowledge could help identify promising new molecular targets for the disease.

  • Investigator: Deliang Guo, PhD, OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program

Improved Imaging for Bladder Cancer Diagnosis and Staging
Bladder cancer impacts more than 77,000 people annually. Accurate staging of the disease, however, can be difficult with the imaging tools currently available. This makes it difficult for urologists to recommend the best treatment for the patient’s specific disease characteristics. This study will develop pathological image analysis tools to accurately stage and stratify patients by disease risk. This will help urologists more accurately stage a patient’s cancer and enable treatment decisions that balance the best chance of long-term cancer control while avoiding over-treatment.

  • Investigator: Cheryl Lee, MD, Chair, Department of Urology and OSUCCC – James urologist; and Metin Gurcan, PhD, Department of Biomedical Informatics and OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program

Stimulating the Immune System to Fight Cancer
Cancer activates specific cells that interfere with the immune system’s ability to kill cancer. Recent OSUCCC – James research showed that these cells – known as myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) – can be stopped with the drug ibrutinib, which targets and blocks Bruton’s tyrosine kinase. In preclinical studies, researchers also showed that this drug was most effective if given in combination with a second drug that activates immune-boosting T-cells called immune checkpoint inhibitors. Initial preclinical results showed a complete elimination of breast cancer tumors in 50 percent of subjects treated with the combination of ibrutinib and immune checkpoint inhibitors. The team will now conduct a small pilot human study to confirm these results in patients with metastatic solid tumors receiving the immunotherapy with an immune checkpoint inhibitor called nivolumab.

  • Investigator: Robert Wesolowski, MD, OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program 

Immunotherapy to Treat Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia
This grant will provide expanded support for two ongoing clinical trials in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that occurs in more than 62,000 people annually and affects the blood-forming cells in the marrow. The trials explore the combination of a more tolerable anti-leukemia drug, decitabine (DAC) given with a new targeted antibody, which has been shown in preclinical testing to improve the immune system’s natural ability to recognize and eradicate cancer cells. This grant will help conduct studies to launch future studies combining decitabine and cellular therapies.  

  • Investigator: Sumithira Vasu, MBBS, OSUCCC – James Translational Leukemia Research Program    

New Targeted Therapies for Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the United States, but there is currently no curative treatment available certain for patients with certain subsets of the disease that have spread to other parts of the body. OSUCCC – James researchers have shown that two different targeted therapies – given alone or in combination – are effective for treating a subset of advanced papillary thyroid cancer patients with BRAF gene mutations. This grant will fund detailed evaluation of patient tumors and blood to learn how cancer cells become resistant, which will guide additional research to increase long-term positive effects of treatment.  

  • Investigators: Manisha Shah, MD, OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program, and Cynthia Timmers, PhD, Solid Tumor Translational Science Shared Resource 

Combining Radiation and Immunotherapy to Treat Brain Tumors
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common primary adult cancer affecting the central nervous system and treatment outcomes are very poor. Scientists believe that there are a variety of mechanisms that prevent the immune system from successfully eradicating these tumors. In this project, researchers will test the effectiveness of radiation with immune modulating treatments in a clinical model to identify potential ideal combination therapeutic strategies. Results from this research may lead to an optimal approach in translating these findings to human clinical trials.

  • Investigator: Raju Raval, MD, DPhil, OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program 

Understanding Genetic Predisposition to Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Differences in a person’s DNA make each person unique. These differences can also make individuals more susceptible to developing diseases like cancer. This study is aimed at discovering genetic differences that exist in the general (non-cancer patient) population that make people more susceptible to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This information will help scientists better understand inherited risk of the disease to improve overall understanding of biologic causes of leukemia and inform future clinical practice.

Pelotonia 2017 will take place Aug. 4-6, 2017. Registration and more information are available at To learn about other Pelotonia-funded research at the OSUCCC – James, visit


About the OSUCCC – James

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of 48 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only a few centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 308-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. With 21 floors and more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care.

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